Intro to Speech Comm: No girls allowed?

According to this article at Inside Higher Ed,“[a]dministrators at Northeast Lakeview College, a recently founded institution located outside of San Antonio, are defending a decision to bar women from a public speaking course launched in 2007.”  The article continues:

The male-only course, “Introduction to Speech Communication,” is offered in coeducational sections as well, which college officials say should satisfy federal discrimination laws.

“We’re not denying anyone access to a speech class,” said Eric Reno, president of Northeast Lakeview College. “That’s not the intent of it.”

Read through the whole article, which links this move to larger fears about the dwindling presence of men in college classrooms: 

There are, however, other data that indicate a pressing problem nationally. Male participation in undergraduate educationdropped from 52 percent to 43 percent between 1976 and 2004, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. At Northeast Lakeview, the male to female ratio on campus is now about 40 percent to 60 percent, according to college officials.

(That 60-40 ratio seems pretty typical for community colleges, by the way.  And Baa Ram U., my R1 institution, has a majority of female undergraduates, too.)  I’m not particularly opposed to this, but I don’t see any evidence in the article (or know of any evidence otherwise) that a men-only class might be desirable, let alone more effective than a co-ed class.  Are any of you Speech Communications experts who can provide some context?  Do college men have a paralyzing fear of public speaking before co-ed audiences?  Do men perform better when women are not in the classroom?

In my experience, men and women are equally bright and capable, but women apply themselve more in college than the men do, which is why they get better grades and have higher graduation rates.  (Remember that New York Times article a few years ago that vividly illustrated the difference between men’s and women’s achievements in college?)  I can’t tell you how many of my male advisees plop down in my office in their Senior year and announce their intention to go to law school or grad school.  When I open their file and see a 2.8 G.P.A. on their transcript, I have to tell them, “you should have thought of that two years ago, pal!”  And yet, from where I sit, it seems like men still rule the world.  They hold the vast majority of elective offices in this country.  They’re by far the majority of regular faculty members at Baa Ram U.  They still hold the vast majority of the world’s wealth.

What do you think?  Do men need all-male sections of intro classes in order to help them succeed?  Or do some college men just need a swift kick in the pants?

This is why we need more (& better) women politicians:

Because Sarah Palin can’t bear the weight of the unreasonable expectation that she represent the interests of all women, as though “women” represent a stable, coherent political subjectivity.  Truth be told, no woman could–and no man is ever held to this standard.  Anthony McCarthy writes at Echidne about the “sex traitor” Palin:

In trying to figure out what is wrong with these people, traitors to others within their kind, looking at their inability to see past their own interest is a key to understanding them. It’s a mistake to look at Sarah Palin and analyze her actions and her place in this campaign in terms of the struggle against patriarchy. She doesn’t struggle against it, she endorses it. That she has found a way to rig the patriarchal system to HER benefit and through her to that of those closest to her is to be expected, that’s what conservatives do no matter what group they belong to. Looking at Palin as any kind of first for women (second, actually, as we are not supposed to remember) only leads away from reality. She is out for number one, not for women in general. Her nomination is as meaningful for progress for women struggling against patriarchy as Clarence Thomas has been for the equality of black people or the Log Cabin Republicans for gay people. In the struggle against patriarchy, she’s just a patriarch in disguise.

“Her nomination is as meaningful for progress for women struggling against patriarchy as Clarence Thomas has been for the equality of black people or the Log Cabin Republicans for gay people.”  Well, here he’s half right–the part where he says that her nomination is meaningless “for progress for women struggling against patriarchy.”  That’s true, and all feminist women I know recognize that Palin would work against their interests–but not all women identify as feminists, and I’ve never in my life heard a male politician criticized because he didn’t represent the interests of all men.  (Paging Judith Butler, on the incoherence of assuming that “woman” is a unified political subject?  Hello?)  Many of Hillary Clinton’s supporters during the primary campaign engaged in overly simplistic and essentialist commentary about how a vote for Clinton was necessarily feminist, and that no true feminists could consider voting otherwise.  I thought that was ridiculous and embarrassing–as though women who voted for Edwards or Obama or Richardson were somehow inauthentic or not as committed to feminist causes simply by virtue of their votes, and as though women had no other policy concerns beyond electing another woman.  Women are just as complicated political subjects as men–and (for better or worse) they don’t always prioritize what mainstream feminist organizations tell them they should when the vote.

There are conservative women who cherish the Evangelical Christian ideal of male household headship and womanly submission, for example.  That’s certainly not my style, although I will note that in order to meet that ideal, a man actually has to be home to take charge of his household, and for a lot of working-class women and women in poverty who haven’t been able to count on the men in their lives to stay sober and to stick around to help raise the kids–well, having a man at home to give his income and his time to his family doesn’t sound like oppression, if your alternative is working 12-hour shifts at Wal-Mart and “shopping” at the Food Bank on your way home.  (And, I’m not saying that unreliable men are all poor or working-class–I’m just saying that having a drunken, abusive, or absent husband or partner is a lot easier to cope with when you’re middle-class or rich because those women have more money, social capital, time, and connections to help solve their problems.  Women who aren’t middle-class or rich might think it’s worth a try to work it out with their men, with the help of the Promise Keepers or some other conservative organization devoted to helping families pull it together.)

Here’s where McCarthy gets it wrong:  …as Clarence Thomas has been for the equality of black people or the Log Cabin Republicans for gay people.  Riiiight–because there is no such thing as a conservative African American person, or a gay man who’s a libertarian Free Marketeer who also donates to the Cato Foundation, or a Republican woman.  This is at the root of McCarthy’s problem, which is that he can only see Sarah Palin’s sex, and Clarence Thomas’s race, and the sexuality of the Log Cabin Republicans.  We’re all of us much more internally divided and diverse than these simplistic equations suggest.  When McCarthy says that Palin is a “traitors to others within [her] kind,” he’s only able to process one part of Palin’s identity, not the whole of it.  This is something that never, ever happens when people talk about white male politicians.  (And, as more than one of the commenters on his post pointed out, it’s a position that pretty much lets off the hook all of the male authors of misogynist policy in Palin’s political lifetime–and there are a lot more of them than there are of the so-called “traitors” like Palin.)

Sarah Palin is a culturally conservative Western governor.  That’s who she is and what she represents, regardless of her sex.  The Republican party luvs them their culturally conservative Western politicians–Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Colorado’s own Bill Owens, and John McCain–have you heard of them?  It seems to me that if we’re looking for conservative Republicans to blame for the lack of progress women have made in this country in recent decades, Sarah Palin wouldn’t even crack the top 300.  But in McCarthy’s construction, she’s uniquely blameworthy.  She’s also the only ambitious politician in America, apparently–she’s “out for number one,” unlike all of the men listed above, plus Bill Clinton, Edward M. Kennedy, Barack Obama, or any other male politicians, who are just trying to serve all of humankind with their lifelong devotion to public service and aren’t vainglorious or ambitious at all.

Can we please, please, please stop holding women politicians to ridiculous standards now?  Will people please stop becoming totally deranged by the fact that Palin has two X chromosomes?  Sarah Palin is not “in disguise,” as McCarthy says, as though it’s a totally new thing to him that some women benefit from the status quo.  Palin is just a hack pol in a long line of hack pols who have run for the Vice Presidency.  Get over it.  If Democrats are so exercised by Palin’s candidacy and are furious that she might become the first woman Vice President, or even (given the state of John McCain’s health) the first woman President–well, whose fault might that be?  Huh, Dems?

Diahann Carroll dishes on race, performing, and the "Julia" Barbie

Diahann Carroll was interviewed on NPR Friday afternoon to promote her book, The Legs are the Last to Go, and the interviewer reminded me of a famous fact in Barbie history:  Carroll’s television show Julia (1968-71) which was the first TV show to star an African American woman who wasn’t a domestic, was the inspiration for a 1968 “Julia” Barbie doll.  Carroll played a nurse whose husband had been killed in the Vietnam War, and who was a single parent of a young son.  The Barbie shown above is the “Talking Julia” doll, and on the right is a picture of the “Julia” vintage lunchbox.  The interview with Carroll was really interesting–she of course still is gorgeous, and it’s hard to believe she’s been around for more than fifty years.

The larger image above is from here, where the depicted doll is for sale!  She still talks, although her hair has oxidized to a strange red that most definitely is not original.  And, dig that jumpsuit!  (I used to have a “Dawn” doll with a similar getup from a few years later, only with turquoise mules instead of the sensible tan ones on “Julia.”)

Walter from Waxahachie opens up a can of whoopass

We at Historiann have been enjoying the guilty pleasures of Rate Your Students for the past six months or so.  It’s pretty much the opposite of this blog–actually, it’s our evil twin.  Whereas Historiann is earnest and all about solidarity and sympathy and bucking you up and making you feel like you’re not so alone, Rate Your Students is all about…none of that.  It’s about the bitterness, isolation, and anomie of modern faculty life, and the realization that you’ve wasted your time and talents by pursuing a career in higher education.

With that in mind, and a warning that as always, Walter’s latest missive is Not Safe For Work (if your work involves people squinting really hard to see over your shoulder while you’re typing, anyway), I refer you to the “crazzy” proffie that we all secretly admire, Walter from Waxahachie.  (For your convenience, Walter’s “Oeuvre” is linked at the bottom of this latest post, so you can catch up on your Walterology over the weekend.)

Here’s a little flava of the gestalt of Walter:

Oh and the cookie bakers! Yes, we have those abominations here at my school as well. The Education and English departments are full of them, lazy, insecure, wallflowers who never got laid until they were 25, so desperate for attention and desperate to be liked. I’d fire every sallow faced one of them if I had the chance, and when I get to be Dean you’re going to hear about it in the Crampicle of Higher Education. (There’ll be a big photo of me eating a turkey leg and smearing my face on the former tenure policy here, that’s for sure.) You know what, I’m not passing out trophies or ribbons or pastries here. I’m a goddamned college professor and you should get the huevos together to do the same.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        * 

You’re not even trying. You want to prove academic culture is bereft of reason, populated with eunuchs, and eager and greasy for a cleaning, well, you’re not aiming very high. You can’t swing a cat around without knocking over 14 insane, persecuted, alarmed, china-doll proffies who can’t wait to get on the Crampiche forums to talk about how unappreciated they are, and how hard it is to be them. F**k that. This page is starting to be run by those eggheads, those layabouts. Get back in charge. I always liked it best when you took a few swings at students, but then twirled around with a roundabout boot to the solar plexus of the “colleagues” who ruin the damn campus. Get ’em all, is what I’m saying. Take ’em all down. Don’t let the bull$h*t seep into the pages, these polite and suddenly happy pages.

Prof. Martha Fineman, founder of the Feminist Legal Theory Project

Feminist Law Profs has posted a brief interview with Professor Martha Fineman, Emory University, about her career and the founding of the Feminist Legal Theory Project in 1984.  She is the author of The Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency (The New Press, 2003) and The Neutered Mother, and The Sexual Family and other Twentieth Century Tragedies, (Routledge,1995), among other titles.  Her recent article “The Vulnerable Subject: Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition” appears in the Yale Journal on Law and Feminism (click here to read it.)

When I was a second-year student at the University of Chicago Law School the only woman law professor I knew – Soya Metchnikoff Soia Mentschikoff- left to become Dean at the University of Miami.  The few women students at the school petitioned requesting that another woman be hired.  We were told that “there is not a woman in the country qualified to be a law professor at the University of Chicago.”

She comments on the obstacles to her advancement as a junior faculty member:

My tenure decision at the University of Wisconsin was delayed a year when one of the [liberal] senior professors pulled his letter of support from my file because I published an article arguing that formal equality was not the model to use for family law reform.  He was outraged that I rejected liberal precepts.  He later changed his mind and apologized.  Another colleague condescendingly told me that even if I questioned formal equality he knew I didn’t want any “special treatment” simply because I was the single mother of four children.  I told him I didn’t want special treatment, but perhaps deserved some recognition that I had managed to meet all the tenure requirements while balancing family circumstances that probably would have defeated many others on the faculty (I meant him, with his stay-at-home wife who not only raised the children, but also edited his papers).  Those and other encounters taught me there was a real need for a supportive environment to encourage feminist work, particularly of the kind that challenged traditional assumptions and received wisdom, and was based on women’s lived experiences.

The myth of the “liberal” state?  Kind of like the myth of how “liberal” academia is!  Hell hath no fury like a so-called “progressive” man who can’t stand being out-lefted by his feminist colleagues.  Thanks, jerks, for reminding me why I’m here and why I do what I do.  And thanks to Prof. Fineman for her tenacity and perseverance.  (Count me among those who would have been “defeated” by her family circumstances!)

Free laffs Wednesday

Come on–admit it.  It’s funny!  (As Homer Simpson once said, “It’s funny because it’s true!”)

Pope kitsch courtesy of Roxie’s World.  (Don’t read the post that it decorates, though–if you’re an Obama supporter, it will make you a little sad and/or defensive, and if you’re not, well–it probably won’t convince you to vote for the guy.)  But, hey–the Democratic Party is a big tent, right?  And big tents sometimes let in some big jerks…and we need to get a substantial portion of the jerk vote to win (even if we don’t win the majority of the jerk vote.)

Colorado polls and pols: things are looking up for the Dems

Although I’ve been deeply skeptical that Colorado would truly be a “swing state,” the latest polls suggest that the Dems are doing very well, up and down the ticket.  If you’re interested in following the Colorado political news–and there is a lot of it this year besides the presidential election–you can do so by checking into  The blog’s proprietor appears to be a sanguine Democrat–don’t expect hir to blow sunshine up Dems’ skirts, not in this state–but is a fair judge of who’s up and who’s down in Colorado’s U.S. and state races.  The commenters come from all over the political spectrum, so you’ll get a sense of what people are seeing and hearing in their various political corners.

The latest Colorado poll (Quinnipiac), as reported by ColoradoPols, shows Obama beating McCain by 4 points, and puts Mark Udall, the Dem candidate for our open U.S. Senate seat, eight points ahead of Republican Bob Schaffer.  And via TalkLeft, a PPP poll reports that Obama is up by seven (51%-44%) and shows the same 8-point Udall advantage for the senate race.  It won’t chap my hide at all to be wrong in my prediction that McCain would probably win Colorado–not a bit.  I’ve always thought that the senate race was Udall’s to lose–the guy he’ll be replacing, Wayne Allard, was nothing but a rubber-stamp dullard who gave the okey-doke to anything the Bush administration wanted.  Even Republicans in Colorado were stunned by Allard’s determined efforts to remain ineffective.

For those of you who are real political junkies and/or members of the GLBTQ community, you will be pleased to hear that the Dems in the 4th CD have a solid candidate to run against Marilyn Musgrave.  (Yes–that Marilyn Musgrave, the hate-the-gays Constitutional amendment sponsor in even numbered years.)  Betsy Markey isn’t letting Musgrave talk smack without talkin’ back–and the dudes at ColoradoPols think she might just have the juice this year to give Musgrave the smackdown.  (I’m a little surprised to hear about their optimism, but I’ll take it.)  By comparison, Schaffer (who represented the 4th CD in congress, 1997-2003) was a really decent guy.  I still wouldn’t have voted for him–but he wasn’t a complete tool.